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Addison Portman feature

Addison Portman, a graduate student of UNM’s School of Engineering, at the Formula SAE shop 

Image by Carlos Ruiz. Photo courtesy of Addison Portman

Portman & LOBOmotorsports race to the finish line

For incoming mechanical engineering majors, your senior year will require a commitment to a design project. Addison Portman, recently guided one of this year's projects to the finish line.

Around 35 students spend three semesters building a Formula-1 or Indycar style racecar that will compete in the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) international engineering design competition, according to the LOBOmotorsports website.

Building the racecar requires collaboration between students inside and outside of class, including mechanical and electrical engineers, community partners and the university for funds and materials. Portman oversaw the entire project.

“I oversee all of the students … and make sure that there's collaboration between all of the subteams,” Portman said. “They're broken down into five different subteams where they work on that specific section of the car. There's a lot of systems integration that needs to go into that to make sure that they aren't having conflicts with each other. Everything's got to fit in the end.”

The group of engineers uses their first semester to digitally model their car and make design decisions. In the second semester, they start their manufacturing phase, Portman said. The course works towards an annual competition in Brooklyn, Michigan at the Michigan International Speedway. There, the team races their car in addition to defending design and manufacturing choices to the judges.

“It's very similar to a Division I style athletics competition … It definitely does get the best of the best out there and provides really competitive competition for a collegiate design series, which is a great experience to have before you go into industry,” Portman said.

Portman works with a smaller team of students to manage day-to-day budgeting, community outreach, events and tours. The management team is voted into their positions by their peers after the first few weeks of class.

Jay Oczon, the project’s deputy project manager, works closely with Portman. Oczon, who is in charge of garnering resources, finances, fundraising and the marketing team said that Portman’s leadership has been ideal.

“I couldn't ask for a better project manager,” Oczon said. “She's very fit for the role. She's always supportive. She knows what she's doing and she also has a goal set forth for us and makes sure that we follow it. She checks off all the boxes as a project manager and as a leader.”

Working as a team is a large part of the industry. Working together to produce a racecar not only mimics that, but is also one of the most enjoyable parts of the process, Ozcon said.

“Building a racecar — you only get to do this once in your life. Most people don't get to build a racecar … And of course, the camaraderie and being able to come together with one goal … that's one of my favorite things,” Ozcon said.

In addition to their class and competition schedule, the group works in the community to increase interest in their work and educate local students, Portman said.

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“We work with a lot of schools; we've taken the car to different middle schools. It's always really fun to see younger kids that are interested in this kind of stuff and teach them about it and show them that it's possible,” Portman said.

Working with LOBOmotorsports has been a rewarding part of her college career, Portman said.

“One of the hardest weeks of your life is going to competition … It is exhausting, but it is really rewarding seeing all of your work come to fruition,”  Portman said.  “You're there with all of the other teams who have worked just as hard. You get to compare designs and see what other people did and talk to people about their work. It's just really fun to be with your team and to have it all come together at the end.”

Addison Key is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @addisonkey11 

Addison Key

Addison Key is a senior reporter at the Daily Lobo and served as the Summer 2023 culture editor. She can be reached on Twitter @addisonkey11. 

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